Hitting Streaks, Quality Pitching, Walk-offs, and More in Hillcats Chatter
Bob Toth | On 23, May 2017
After a couple of tough patches earlier in the month, the Lynchburg Hillcats have found that winning recipe in Carolina League play.
Winners of six of their last seven contests, the Indians’ High-A affiliate have charged back into the race in the Carolina League’s Northern Division. At 24-19, they trail the rival Salem Red Sox by three and a half games in the standings.
The Hillcats will play eleven of their next 15 games on the road, which could help them gain even more ground in the division. The ‘Cats have had a tough time at City Stadium this season, going just 11-13 on their home field, but are 13-6 on the road, a mark trailing only Salem’s 14-6 road record for best in High-A.
After going 4-1 during their five-game set with Potomac over the last four days, the Hillcats will hit the road to start a three-game series in Wilmington with the Blue Rocks on Tuesday night. After a brief return home for four against Salem beginning on Friday night, they will turn the calendar to June with series on the road against Potomac and Salem.
In other Hillcats chatter:
Ka’ai Tom delivered the game-winning double on Monday night to give the Hillcats a fourth victory in five tries against Potomac as the two clubs wrapped up their series in Lynchburg.
Tom was on base to score the first run of the night after walking with one out in the fourth, but it would be the fourth run that would prove most important in the tenth inning. After a Martin Cervenka triple helped to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, Claudio Bautista singled against Mariano Rivera III to start the tenth. After an out, Tom doubled on a liner to left, scoring Bautista all the way from first with the game-winning run.
With two hits in the ball game, Tom extended his hitting streak to six games.
CASTRO CRUSHING BASEBALLS, WINS ONE IN 15
It only took 15 innings, a nearly hour long rain delay, and a mid-game fireworks show, but the Hillcats earned a 4-3 victory on Saturday against Potomac for their first walk-off win of the season. Willi Castro played the hero with his bases loaded single in the 15th frame to send Lynchburg fans home victorious.
His game-winning single back up the middle was part of a busy day for the infielder, who was 3-for-5 at the plate and reached five times in total with a pair of walks. The big day extended his hitting streak to seven games at the time, and the streak has grown to nine straight games with a single in game one on Sunday and a single and a double in the nightcap. He did not start on Monday, but he took over as the pinch-runner for Cervenka and scored the tying run in the bottom of the ninth.
During his nine-game hitting streak, Castro’s average has skyrocketed from .216 to .290. In his incredible run at the plate, he has 17 hits in 36 at bats with four doubles, a homer, a pair of walks, one hit by pitch, and eight RBI.
CALICA’S ON-BASE, HITTING STREAKS END
Andrew Calica’s second eight-game hitting streak in the month of May came to an end with an 0-for-7 performance over both games of Saturday’s doubleheader with Potomac.
During the most hitting recent streak, he was 11-for-35 at the plate with three doubles, three walks, and two RBI.
The hitless day also brought an end to his streak of consecutive games reaching base safely with a hit or a walk at 19 games. Between the two eight-game hitting streaks was a three-game 0-for-7 stretch, but in each of the games, he drew a walk.
THIRD STRAIGHT QUALITY START FOR BIEBER
Since joining the HIllcats on May 5 after spending the first month of the season with the Class-A Lake County Captains, right-hander Shane Bieber has been nothing but quality for Lynchburg.
He made his third start for the Hillcats on Saturday and brought the same stuff to the mound. He lasted six and two-thirds innings, allowing ten hits, but only two runs crossed the plate. He did not walk a batter and he struck out four in the game.
The third straight quality start for Bieber plumped his ERA up to a lofty 1.93 during his time with the Hillcats. In 18 2/3 innings of work, he has allowed five runs (four earned) with 14 strikeouts and no walks.
CHIANG WINS AGAIN
Shao-Ching Chiang won his sixth consecutive decision for the Hillcats on Thursday despite giving up a season-high five earned runs in seven and two-thirds. He has won every outing for Lynchburg since losing his High-A debut on April 10.
While he allowed a season-high for hits and runs, he also struck out a season-high seven batters while making his sixth straight start of at least seven innings.
McKENZIE NEARLY GOES THE DISTANCE
In game one of Sunday’s doubleheader, young right-hander Triston McKenzie nearly went the distance in the scheduled seven inning contest as part of the day’s festivities. After holding the P-Nats scoreless through the first six innings with just one hit allowed and six strikeouts, he came back out for the seventh with a 3-0 lead but was relieved after walking the first two batters. A two-run double, two hit batters, and a walk pushed the tying run across and sent the game to extra innings, where the Hillcats finally succumbed to defeat.
It was his second start since being named the league’s Pitcher of the Week on May 15.
LOOPSTOK HOMERS IN BACK-TO-BACK DAYS
First baseman Sicnarf Loopstok doubled his season output for homers in back-to-back games in the series finale at Winston-Salem last Thursday and in the opener against Potomac from City Stadium on Friday. He drove in five runs in the two games, added three more in the two games of the doubleheader on Sunday, and had two more with two hits in Monday night’s win.
His four homers on the year are tied with outfielder Jodd Carter for the team lead. His 23 RBI and ten doubles are both tops on the club.
ON THE MOVE
Right-hander Leandro Linares was activated from the 7-day disabled list last Tuesday and was promoted to Double-A Akron on Saturday by the organization.
The Hillcats received a replacement for the bullpen on Monday when left-hander Alsis Herrera was assigned to the club from his previous placement with the Class-A Lake County Captains. The 24-year-old had just eleven minor league games logged since joining the Indians organization last August. He made his High-A debut on Monday and earned his second consecutive win overall, firing three and one-third innings of one-hit relief with a strikeout.